May 12 2011
Behind the staid, unassuming exteriors of Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters in the capital lies an abode of Islamic missionaries. The latest claim by Wikileaks that this centre was used by al-Qaida operatives ‘as a cover to obtain travel documents and shelter’ has been denied by the Jamaat. The media is usually not welcome here, but Monday was different.
Maulana Yusuf Suleri, a senior Jamaat functionary, rubbished all claims of any links with al-Qaida. His tone was cautious but it was obvious that he was familiar with the allegations and that this was not the first time he had had to counter them. “You are bothered, we are not. We are working here to enlighten people and help them become a good human being. This can only come through sincere religious practices and by following the rituals. Anyone is invited,” he said.
The four-storeyed headquarters of the Jamaat, known as Bangle Waali Masjid, is situated close to the dargah of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Aulia and Ghalib Academy in Nizamuddin West, south Delhi. It is a tall building with one narrow iron gate for entry. Flung open, it reveals a mini colony – a sprawling pool (wuzukhana) where people prepare for religious discourse, crammed rooms, a huge kitchen and shoe racks.
The first floor has a huge hall with thousands of people sitting there to listen to the preaching by an elderly man. “You should target the elderly people in the locality and those who are influential in shaping up public opinion. Never force your views and make sure that you do not accept any money or eatables,” he says.
The discourse goes on for hours after which the voluntary members of the Jamaat are to be told about their destination mosque – where they have to report next. They are asked to visit a certain locality in groups and enlighten the locals about their roles and responsibilities as a Muslim.
The students in this case include elderly people, adults and young boys – there are no women. There is 17-year-old Mohammad Kareem who has come all the way from Tamil Nadu after completing his Class XII exams. “I am with the Jamaat for a chilla (40 days). The Jamaat will tell us the destination mosque where we will be staying and work to spread the teaching of Islam, what it takes to become a good Muslim,” he said.
Another flight of stairs leads to another big hall with a resting area for the common people and separate one for foreigners and top functionaries of the Jamaat. “I am from Thailand. I came here with three friends, received training and went to different parts of Chennai and Delhi to propagate Islam in January and now we are waiting for our flight back to Bangkok,” said Abdul Haleem.
The building was occupied by about 5,000 people on Monday. Insiders say on Thursdays – Jume raat – the crowd is even bigger.
Noted Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin says Tablighi Jamaat is a religious organization which has a large following in more than 150 countries across the world. “To say that the Jamaat as an organization can have terror links is wrong. Yes, there is a possibility that some terrorist organization might have used it to execute its plans,” he says.